Students use visual art to stop the spread of HIV in South Africa [Gallery]

Over the past few months we've been incredibly busy hosting workshops with a growing group of students in Canada, and throughout southern Africa. Most recently, this has included two solid weeks of work with some incredible young people in Soweto and Johannesburg. [See photos below!]

Hendrikus Bervoets, Art for AIDS International's Executive Director, hosted workshops with 192 students in six high schools and at the University of Johannesburg in partnership with the University's Department of Community Engagement. These workshops introduced students to a range of themes including HIV prevention and testing, gender and racial equality, self-esteem, and social justice through the medium of art making.

“The student's excitement was really quite unbelievable. I walked into the classrooms as a complete and total stranger and talked to rooms full of South African students. While I was a stranger when I walked in, however, I felt that I walked out as a friend. In such a short period of time there was this phenomenal connection and discussion being made with young people” - Hendrikus Bervoets

All of the workshops were facilitated by Hendrikus with support from 8 University of Johannesburg students who are part of a collaborative Art for AIDS mentorship programme there. The secondary school workshops were also used to collect important data as part of a longitudinal study on information quality, comprehension and of course, student enjoyment during Art for AIDS workshops. This data helps us continue to ensure our workshops are effective, enjoyable, and tailored to be regionally relevant to the participants.

During the workshops, we were also privileged to notify a student from Noordgesig Secondary School, Busisiwe, that she had won a scholarship sponsored by the Ontario Teachers' Federation (OTF), culminating an Art for AIDS/OTF school Twinning Project organised last year between Noordgesig and Northern Lights Secondary School in Moosonee, Ontario.

All of us at Art for AIDS would like to thank the Department of Community Engagement from the University of Johannesburg for their support and partnership, as well as the University’s mentorship students who volunteered their time to support the workshop process, and to act as role models for the secondary school participants. We would also like to thank the Ontario Teachers' Federation for their support, sponsorship, and for their dedication to empowering young people through education. Finally, we would like to thank each of the students for their questions, comments, and for the incredible pieces of artwork they produced and shared - which we will soon be sharing with all of you.

Holding workshops is an extremely important part of what Art for AIDS does. Although not everyone is infected with HIV, everyone is affected by it. It is crucial, therefore, that everyone, and especially young people, are educated about the realities of the the global AIDS epidemic, and engaged in the response. If you would like to learn more about our workshops, visit our Workshops page or contact us directly!

“All in all, it was fantastic. I came back to Canada with renewed energy and excitement for the work that I do".

Check out our gallery for photos from our workshops, and to catch a glimpse at some of the great artwork that the participants produced.